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Indigenous African Food From Gogo's Kitchen

These are foods that are taste like home and only grandma has the recipe

BY Naledi K

May 26, 2021, 03:21 PM

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There’s nothing that says home quite like food. It's like, you take one bite of cuisine that is indigenous to your homeland and no matter where you are in the world, you are transported right back home.

South Africa has a rich heritage and when it comes to food that is unique to Mzansi, the country has enough variety. Obviously, some food has become more popular than others and if there was ever a competition where SA had to represent the likes of bobotjies, tribe/mogodu and umqushu are some of the stars that would make the list.

However, there are certain cuisines that truly only taste right when they come out of grandma’s hands. These cuisines are right up there with the things that should be preserved and passed on to the next generation so that our children will benefit from us having the knowledge. They are some of the healthiest foods you’ll ever eat. 

We call some of these differently depending on our mother tongue or the geographical location from which we were raised but most of us know them when we see them because they are grandma’s speciality!
Here are some of the fave cuisines out of my grandma’s kitchen:

Motogo Wa Ting

Anybody who grew up with their grandmother will proudly tell you how this was the best breakfast they ever knew. For most of us, ting porridge was and remains a staple breakfast meal. What is ting, I hear you ask? Well, ting is distinct-tasting soft porridge or pap that is essentially made from fermenting mabele meal (wheat). It is the long fermentation time (48 hours) that gives ting its distinctive taste. It is served in bowls, topped with brown sugar at breakfast.
Alternatively, ting can be served with meat and/or vegetables instead of sugar.


Kgodu is a Sepedi recipe for what is essentially a soft porridge made from pumpkin or butternut - very similar to the Zulu isijingi. It used to be a staple in the past and a firm fave for the now-golden generation.

Fun fact: If you take it a step further, you can make a type of pap called Thopi (pronounced tow-pee) in Sepedi by adding more mealie meal until the mixture is firm enough to hold (as opposed to being runny like soft porridge.) Thopi used to be enjoyed with cooked pumpkin seeds, called Dithotse (you cook them in a small amount of water with enough salt until they are crunchy).


Mokhuse is a type of morogo aka dried leaves (aka African or wild spinach, also known as cowpea.) There is no village girl insight who does not know or love mokhuse and the love comes from our grandmothers (who mostly stay in the rural areas of places). This type of morogo comes from a group of edible leaves that includes amaranth, green bean and pumpkin leaves.
Old people were super creative in the kitchen so in addition to cooking the pumpkins and beans they would harvest, they also found a way to make use of their fresh leaves which is how we also have things like morogo wa lephotse (pumpkin) or morogo wa dinawa (beans). At times when they didn’t have meat to eat with the pap/maize meal/mealie meal - an African staple - they would have morogo instead.

I’m fortunate enough to have my grandmother to teach me these cuisines, which I treasure like somewhat of an inheritance. As she’s gotten older, she wants more and more of the things she calls “uncomplicated” foods. More often than not, she’d rather have morogo with her pap than meat stew or a fancy pasta dish for dinner. The type of food she grew up with is way healthier than some of the options we have today, and she always the healthy food are the reason she’s lived as long as she has (she’s almost 80 years old).

And, lucky for us, chefs and pioneers in their fields such as Mogau Seshoene and Liziwe Matloha went ahead and made the effort to ask grandma to plug them with recipes, so now we have somewhere digital to search for food that takes us back to happier and simpler times in grandma’s arms - just a click or a page turn away.

If you are lucky enough to still have grandma explain their history of how they developed the recipes over time then cherish the moment and keep the stories to share with your children one day when they ask why you have a huge smile on your face when all you are eating is “green leafy stuff”.